Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla speaks during a press conference with the President of the European Commission after a visit to monitor the production of the Pfizer-BioNtech Covid-19 vaccine at the plant of US pharmaceutical company Pfizer in Puurs on April 23, 2021.
John Thys | AFP | Getty Images
Pfizer Chief Executive Albert Bourla laid out his plan on Tuesday to keep the pharmaceutical giant growing through 2030 as the Covid-19 pandemic fades and the company faces generic competition for some of its blockbuster drugs.
Bourla said Pfizer is staring down an expected loss of between $16 billion and $18 billion in revenue from 2025 to 2030 as patent protection for some of its best-selling drugs expires. He acknowledged that some investors are skeptical about Pfizer’s future after two blockbuster years thanks to its Covid vaccine and antiviral treatment.
“We recognize that some are questioning Pfizer’s long-term growth prospects,” Bourla told analysts during Pfizer’s third-quarter earnings call on Tuesday. The company’s shares rose about 3% on Tuesday after it raised its 2022 earnings guidance in its third-quarter earnings report that beat Wall Street expectations. “We believe we can not only overcome these expected declines, but also potentially generate strong growth through the end of the decade,” he said.
In a July report, Moody’s singled out five Pfizer drugs that could come under pressure from generics over the next decade. They include Eliquis to treat blood clots, Vyndaqel for cardiomyopathy, Xeljanz for rheumatoid arthritis, Ibrance for breast cancer and Xtandi for prostate cancer.
Together, those five drugs represented about 40% of Pfizer’s third-quarter revenue this year, when the Covid vaccine and the antiviral treatment Paxlovid are excluded.
It is also unclear how much demand there will be for the Covid vaccine and Paxlovid when the world hopefully exits the pandemic. In the third quarter of this year, the vaccine and antiviral treatment accounted for 52% of Pfizer’s total revenue.
Bourla told analysts that Pfizer plans to add $25 billion to the company’s revenue by 2030 through recent acquisitions as well as the development of its internal drug and vaccine pipeline. He highlighted three areas of focus – respiratory syncytial virus, migraine and ulcerative colitis.
Pfizer’s RSV vaccine candidates for older adults and infants have the potential to generate billions in revenue, Bourla said. Its vaccine for people age 60 and older was 85% effective in preventing serious lower respiratory tract infections. And its infant vaccine, given to mothers late in their pregnancy, was 81% effective in preventing serious illness in the first 90 days of the child’s life.
Bourla said the vaccine to protect newborns could hit the market in late 2023 or early 2024. It would be the only RSV vaccine in the United States that protects infants by giving the shot to the mother, he said. The RSV vaccine for older adults could also hit the market within the same time frame, according to Bourla.
“RSV is an area of significant unmet need, particularly in older adults and infants,” he said. “We believe we have the potential to be a leader in the space and have a real impact on public health.”
Pfizer also plans to build the world’s best migraine drug portfolio through its recent acquisition of Biohaven Pharmaceuticals, Bourla said. Its portfolio of migraine drugs could reach peak revenue of more than $6 billion, he said. More than 40 million people suffer from migraines in the United States alone.
Pfizer’s purchase of Arena Pharmaceuticals and its ulcerative colitis drug candidate could also generate billions in revenue, Bourla said. Ulcerative colitis is a debilitating inflammatory bowel disease that affects one million people in the United States
There is a high demand for treatments, and Pfizer expects the market to grow by 50% over the next five years, Bourla said. The drug, etrazimod, could enter the U.S. market in the second half of 2023 pending regulatory approval, Bourla said.
Pfizer bought four companies this year alone for a total of more than $24 billion. The drugs those acquisitions bring should move Pfizer about a third of the way toward its 2030 revenue goal, Bourla said.
In addition to Arena and Biohaven, the acquisitions include Global Blood Therapeutics and ReViral. Global Blood Therapeutics makes Oxbryta, a treatment for sickle cell disease. ReViral develops antiviral treatments against RSV.
Pfizer also has 15 drugs and vaccines developed in-house that are expected to be launched in the next 18 months. They have the potential to generate $20 billion in 2030 sales, according to Bourla.
And Pfizer expects its Covid vaccine and antiviral treatment to remain multibillion-dollar revenue generators for years to come, said David Denton, Pfizer’s chief financial officer.
“This is going to be kind of like a persistent flu, but actually more deadly than the flu,” Denton said on the earnings call. “So that’s why I think that the products, both from a vaccine and a therapy perspective, that Pfizer has developed can be quite relevant for many years to come.”